What is a false statement?
The elements of a false statement are (1) that the defendant made a statement; (2) the statement was false, fictitious, or fraudulent when made; (3) the defendant knew the statement was false, fictitious, or fraudulent when made; (4) the defendant made the false statement with the intent to deceive; (5) the fraudulent statement was material; and (6) the statement was made in a manner within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the federal government.
What constitutes a statement?
Courts have separated misrepresentations into two categories – concealment of material facts and misstatement of material facts. Concealment can include leaving something blank on a form, as well as telling a “half-truth.” For a person to conceal material information, he must have a duty to disclose the information. On the other hand, misstatements may be volunteered and require no duty of disclosure. This element has the most inconsistent precedent in the area of false denials made to officers.
What determines the falsity of a statement?
The statute uses clear language to indicate that this includes any statement that is untrue. While generally easy to apply, this element can become unclear when a misleading statement is literally true, as well as when the statement has more than one meaning. If the statement can be reasonably interpreted as correct, the charge must be dismissed.;
Knowledge of the misrepresentation is required. The defendant must have known the statement to be false at the time. The government does not have an obligation to provide direct proof of actual knowledge, however, and can sufficiently prove that the defendant acted in “reckless disregard” of the truth or falsity of the statement. This makes the element much harder to defend against, especially if plentiful circumstantial evidence indicates the ability of the defendant to determine the truth or falsity of such statements.
Intentionality is very important regarding false statements. The statute requires proof that the statement was made with the intent to deceive, or gain belief in a falsehood. Proof of intent to defraud or disobey the law are not required. Also, the agency does not have to successfully be deceived for intent to proven. However, lack of success may strengthen the argument against the next element of a false statement.
The false statement must be material. The materiality of a statement is the extent to which it has a tendency to influence a governmental function. If the false statement was unsuccessful in influencing said governmental function, it may still be material. Like intent, materiality is not defended against by lack of success alone, although this might help to bolster the argument that the statement was not designed to deceive the agency.
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